What if computers do to memory what they have done to arithmetic? – Michael Lesk (National Science Foundation)

March 29, 2000 all-day

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In a typical lifetime you might read, see, and hear a total of about 16 gigabytes; today that would fit on one disk drive, and you could carry it around with you. We might no longer need to worry about note-taking, learning facts, or memory in general, any more than we would now worry about our ability to do long division. Even more, however, the computers that augmented your memory could talk to each other, far exceeding the capabilities of the “World Brain” once imagined by H. G. Wells. Online data is already revolutionizing some aspects of life; for example, molecular biology research has been transformed by the Protein and Genome Data Banks. What happens if every business, world-wide, has the same access to every customer? Will scholarship turn into data mining as we automate the job of taking observations and filling up the data bases? Will we no longer need physics professors once we can all have virtual conversations with Richard Feynman? What happens to individual privacy? There is already a place in London where surveillance cameras compare their images with the faces of 100 known criminals. Does such technology move us towards international cooperation or international competition? This talk will discuss the impact of digital libraries, imagined on a personal level.

Center for Language and Speech Processing